Hermeneutics is based upon the historicity of Dasein as a being that has its own being as its primary issue. To be historical is to be temporal, i.e., to exist and to project in time. Hence hermeneutic circle necessarily involves the fore-conception (Vorgriff) of time and the temporal, i.e. temporality as such. For ontology to be able to tackle the task of the historicity of being, it needs to first and foremost look at what it means to be temporal. For Heidegger, the clue to this investigation is found in none other than Dasein itself (Heidegger, 2011, Chapter 1).
Dasein, as temporal being (Zeitlichsein), is its factical being-in-the-world – the fore-having in hermeneutic circle. The fore-conception of time in Dasein therefore goes hand in hand with its fore-having in the “worlding” of its being.
Dasein, existing in time, has a unique mode of being that Heidegger calls “Jeweiligkeit”. Through Dasein, the universal passage of time is characterised by the particularity of this or that human Dasein in the facticity of his or her being-there – but not forever. God does not have Dasein. Jeweiligkeit as a mode of being is hence the opposite of God’s eternal being. If existence can only be understood qua being-in-the-world as temporal, then in the phenomenological sense, God does not exist. By this it is meant that the temporal-historical question of existence does not apply or relate to God. In other words, God is something else altogether. Hence the incarnation of God qua Dasein in the form of the historical figure of Jesus Christ is the central tenet of the Christian religion that differentiates it from other faith traditions. In Jesus, God partook in history. In contrast, the indigenous, pre-Christian religions of Europe did not place the divine in history, but in mythology. Mythology is not temporal, even if its indigenous telling, e.g. in the form of sagas (Sagen) in pre-Christian Nordic religion, took place in time qua Dasein and was conditioned by Dasein‘s mortality as being-towards-death (Sein zum Tode). Being indigenous, Nordic paganism could only live through its adherents. If the Nordic Volk dies out, the religion itself ceases to exist, too. (Hence the “folkish” debate is a real question in the revival of Nordic and other forms of European paganism in today’s society.) Christianity, on the other hand, can be resuscitated through its sacred texts even after all Christians have passed away. It is a religion of the book – hence hermeneutics in the sense of the interpretation of sacred texts. Pagan hermeneutics, however, can operate non-textually, such as through oral transmissions, archaeological artefacts and ritual practices, for as long as the Volk of its original adherents continues to exist in unbroken lineages through the generations: it involves the living transmission of the pagan Mitdasein.
Heidegger, Martin. The concept of time. Translated by Ingo Farin with Alex Skinner. London: Continuum, 2011.